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Au revoir mes amis

Published by Paul O'Sullivan in Winter · 5/8/2014 09:53:55
Tags: Beef;steak;cattlegrazing

Last week we said goodbye to the last of our 2012 born steers. Normally they would have been sold prior to winter, but the early autumn rains accompanied by the mild weather meant we had additional grass to get the cattle heavier. These prime animals have enjoyed grazing lush pastures for most of their time, with some home grown hay added lately for roughage.
These cattle almost earned celebrity status, being stars of a couple of programs. We hosted a visit from food writer Richard Cornish, who caught them on video for the "Put Victoria on your Table" promotion. He couldn’t recall seeing such happy cattle – compared to sad looking feedlot steers he’d seen, these guys were bouncing around, and most inquisitive. The importance of stress free cattle can’t be emphasised too much in the pursuit of tender, prime quality meat.
Other interested visitors were a Chinese film crew and presenter. They were getting video footage of pasture reared cattle and sheep to support a meat export business they are establishing. As well as ground based footage, they used a drone to get aerial shots of the livestock, which was actually very effective at mustering a mob of over 300 weaner cattle around their paddock!
(These guys had been exporting premium wine to China for many years, but with this market getting quite difficult, they are looking to beef as their next niche export opportunity. They are aiming at the whole paddock to plate supply chain management, but finding it very hard to get processing space in any of Australia’s southern meatworks. Of course, like everything associated with China the numbers are mind boggling, so even with a relatively large herd of 400 cows we could barely supply one week’s supply schedule for the company!)
So, the cattle had reached their ideal weight of 460 to 500 kg with the right fat cover for the butcher, so off they went! They averaged 240-250kg carcass weight and, after passing the Meat Standards Australia grading for meat quality, will be available through Gippsland Natural www.gippslandnatural.com.au (see home delivery tab) and the Prom Meats butcher shop in Foster this week.
Now it’s interesting to consider the composition of that carcass. Of the 250kg, 70kg is waste product - fat and bone - and there is actually only 30kg of prime cuts – eye fillets, scotch and porterhouse and rump.  So, to put it into context, to have a couple of eye fillets each weighing around 2kg we need a steer weighing half a ton in the paddock – no wonder it is expensive! The balance is made up of roasting and braising meats and around 75kg of trimmings for sausages and mince.
So when people ask if we process our own cattle for the freezer, our reply is that we haven’t done so for many years. There is a limit to how much mince and how many sausages we can eat! Historically the dogs get very spoilt as they help us empty the freezer.
The variety of beef meals from a beast reflects the origins of the particular cuts of meat. Those cuts that come from muscles that do a lot of work, eg neck or leg, will have much greater muscle fibres than say the tenderloin (eye fillet) which really does no work. Those muscle fibres will make the meat tough and chewy unless slow cooked, whereas the eye fillet can be quickly grilled for a great eating experience. The flip side is that those fibrous meats will often have much greater flavour to justify the lengthy cooking techniques.
Over the last couple of weeks we have used eye fillet and chuck steak from the neck to feed the masses relatively easily.
I preheat the BBQ and sear the whole fillet on all sides on a frypan, before being placed on the grill plate of a BBQ with the lid shut. Once the meat goes on, I turn off the burners under the grill plates, but leave the burners under the hot plate to maintain the heat. The fillets are turned once or twice. This takes around 20 minutes, then the fillet is removed, wrapped in foil and rested for another 10 -15 minutes. Timing is tricky to avoid over cooking the meat. This is beautiful, served with a range of mustards or some red wine jus.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, mouth-size pieces of chuck steak are browned all over, as are mushrooms, shallots, some speck, diced onion and carrot, and garlic cloves. Flour and tomato paste is used to coat the beef, then  put all together with enough red wine and beef stock to cover the mix, some herbs (thyme, parsley…..), then cook slowly for ninety minutes or so. Prior to serving, remove the meat and vegetables to reduce the liquid, then return the meat etc for serving.
For those inclined, serve with vegetables or salad, but more importantly a good glass of red wine! Cheers!



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